Finally, without further ado – the second of the two professional pianists in my father’s family tree. Perlina’s an in-law – but she married into the right family. The first pianist (Irwin Eveleth Hassell, Ancestor #8) was the son of Perlina’s husband’s first cousin.
Besides the link with Irwin through their musical careers, she’s already been referenced a few times in this blog. Sarah Hassell Wood (#38) was her mother-in-law; the wacky news article (also in #38) was describing her Brooklyn wedding reception; AND my imaginary Auntie Mame, Anita Wood Chace (#13), was Perlina’s eldest daughter. But this is Perlina’s story.
Perlina Kellogg Hendricks was born on August 26, 1872 in Kingston, Ulster County, New York – and even way back then, the Hendricks’ Ulster County roots were well into their third century! The Hendricks family were among the first Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam, along the Hudson River between New York City and Albany.
Perlina’s father was Howard Hendricks – a very prominent citizen of Kingston, and her mother was Lucy Minerva Wood, whose father was Silas Wood, Jr., a somewhat well-regarded painter in his time, and the author of a book on his signature technique known as “monochromatic painting”.
(I have so many WOOD families in my tree! I don’t yet know if or how this one ties into the others – but it sort of feels like they will at some point. Lucy’s mother’s family – like mine – traces back to the Puritan Stanley brothers who arrived in Massachusetts in 1634, and were among the founders of Hartford, Connecticut in 1636.)
Perlina’s early interest in music was obviously at least partially a product of her father’s general interests: From his obituary (1921):
He engaged in the piano and organ business and established a large trade which he held for many years. He became deeply interested in the study of music and for many years was highly esteemed as a musical critic. His interest in music led to the formation of the Kingston Philharmonic Society in the early eighties and for five years he was its active secretary. His activity resulted in furnishing Kingston year after year with musical festivals which brought to Kingston some of the most celebrated concert singers in America… His interest in musical productions never waned and in the past few years he was actively interested in the Kingston Symphony Society, which has provided the city with many delightful concerts.
So Perlina excelled at the piano, and performed in Kingston. Often! Even as late as 1916, the Kingston paper still billed her with her Hendricks name, when everywhere else she was known professionally as Mrs. J. Irving Wood.
Nowadays, it seems odd that anyone would take a cumbersome name like that. And even odder that she kept it, under the circumstances. J. Irving was a genuine cad – and the kid brother of my great-grandmother, Josephine Wood Watson. He and Perlina had three daughters during their first eight years of marriage, 1894-1902. And then he left.
There was a sighting, of sorts, when his mother’s will was probated in 1917 and gave his address in Way-Upper Manhattan – but even after years of searching, no further trace of him has ever been found.
So it fell to Perlina to make a living and to keep her girls fed and clothed. She gave concerts and recitals, and taught piano in Kingston and in Englewood, New Jersey. According to her listing in the Musical Blue Book of America, 1915, she set up shop in Carnegie Hall as a piano and sight-singing teacher.
Among the highlights of her performing career was a program she performed regularly throughout her later career – a performance of Richard Strauss’ melodrama Enoch Arden with elocutionist Alice J. Bloxham. She also took part in one of the early summer gatherings at the MacDowell Colony, the artist retreat in Peterborough, New Hampshire, created by composer Edward MacDowell and his wife.
And if that weren’t enough, she also wrote several articles for a music-business journal called Etude magazine: Making of a Music Class (1909); How Do You Accept Criticism? (1910); Teaching of the Only Child (1910); Everlasting Why? (1912); and Does Your Musical Work Need Housecleaning? (1915).
Interesting (to me, anyway) is the amazing number of places she lived – and the general toneyness of the addresses. After Irving’s exit, she lived mostly at the Englewood place while the girls were growing up. Then an apartment on West 69th Street, the Carnegie Hall studio, and a summer house on Long Island. Then she lived for a time with Anita at Beekman Place (part of my “Auntie Mame” fixation!), and with her brother at Bee Hill – Madeleine’s husband’s family place in Williamstown in gorgeous Berkshire County, Massachusetts.
Honestly, I don’t know where the money came from! I know Irving’s mother Sarah’s 1917 will provided for a trust to be set up for the girls – and she probably was very generous during her lifetime. But I have to guess the Hendricks clan was far better off than I thought!
In her later years, she finally retired the “Mrs. J. Irving Wood” monicker and became “Mother Pearl”, playing Grandmother to Helen’s family in the Chicago area. Perlina Wood passed away on October 20, 1953, at the age of 81, and was buried in the old Hendricks plot at the Lake Katrine Cemetery outside Kingston.
(Acknowledgement: A few years back I was fortunate to make contact with one of Perlina’s great-granddaughters, who provided me with some stories as well as these wonderful photographs. Thanks, cousin!)